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Daddy Longlegs (The Criterion Collection)

The Criterion Collection // Unrated // August 16, 2022
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted November 11, 2022 | E-mail the Author
Daddy Longlegs:

The Safdie brothers' (Uncut Gems) first jointly directed full-length picture, Daddy Longlegs (2009) seems designed to create intense anxiety in parents and those without kids alike. Semi-autobiographical elements ferry this mostly naturalistic, feckless drama through its uncomfortable paces, creating a lasting, troubling, heart-felt imprint.

Things start oddly as Lenny (Ronald Bronstein) appears to have some difficulty ordering a hot-dog at a New York deli. He wants a foot-long, which they don't have, so he settles for two regular dogs; communicating his choice of toppings seems cumbersome too. After dropping his dogs on the grass in the park, he lies down laughing. Who is this moron? He sure doesn't seem to fit into the world, it would seem by intent. Stakes are raised uncomfortably high only when he goes to pick up from school his two young sons Sage and Frey (Sage and Frey Ranaldo, sons of Lee (Sonic Youth) Ranaldo and photographer Leah Singer).

Daddy Longlegs is almost comedic in its dramatic ramblings, outlining Lenny as a person barely able to hold his own life together, let alone those of children. Thankfully he's divorced, and his kids spend the bulk of their time with their mom Paige, and their stepdad, played by their real-life parents. The drama and peril come as we asks ourselves just how much damage can this man do to his kids as he swings from acting like their rabble-rousing brother to reluctant, unknowable authority figure.

Lenny's irresponsibility generates the events in the movie, and like with a horror movie, a reviewer could simply list them for an entertaining read that lures in viewers. Better to enjoy them all without warning, like his kids do (don't even read the Blu-ray cover). And for the most part, his kids do enjoy the madness. Who doesn't love a goofball dad, even one you barely see? The Safdies allow Daddy Longlegs to churn in chaos. It's a perfect rendition of a man who never grew up, and the kids who deserve better. Bronstein's mercurial performance painfully hits all the right notes. The actor surely doesn't know Sage and Frey as closely as a 'real dad' would, nor does Lenny know his kids like a real dad. He's a gang-leader, always quick with low-rent ways to have fun, and the Ranaldo boys act like they've seen it all, because that's what kids have to do in order to cope.

Bits of magical realism are caught - notably a 'paper tornado', and Lenny's nightmare, complete with a surreal giant mosquito, hint at the struggling human underneath the broken facade. But we, like his children, aren't sure we want the fun to continue, nor are we sure we can muster much sympathy for someone whose love for his children is like a misunderstood reflex action. When it's time for Sage and Frey to go back to mom, it's clear they'll always be dealing with Daddy Longlegs and the damage done.

The Safdie Brothers joint directorial debut feature Daddy Longlegs, culled from semi-autobiographical stories, is a harrowing, humorous, rambling, and ultimately deeply affecting two-weeks in the life of a divorced dad and his visiting kids. Feeling pretty naturalistic, and like a grown-up continuation of 1980s New York underground film-making, the Safdie's movie, with convincing and committed performances, presents an uncomfortable, unforgettable window into a broken world. Highly Recommended.


The DVD

Video:
Daddy Longlegs is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The movie was shot in Super 16 and blown up to 35mm, and appears here in a new, director-approved 4k scan. It's gritty and grimy (though one never knows how much of that grime is just New York coming through) and full of grain, which becomes quite heavy even in some more 'brightly-lit' scenes. Dirt and film damage are both spotable if you're looking, but not an issue, and details are as to be expected; none-to-sharp, but adding to the atmosphere.


Sound:
The uncompressed 2.0 stereo audio track is unremarkable but does the job admirably, with a good mix between dialog, which is damage and distortion-free, and the score and other soundtrack elements.


Extras:
Criterion does the usual thoughtful and unique job with extras, including a fun 33-page Insert Booklet on standard copy paper, that appears to be downsized from 8.5 x 11 inches in order to fit in the keepcase. It consists of a faux evaluation of Lenny's parenting skills, an essay, and interview with the Safdies. You get a cool, interesting new 25-minute Interview with Sage, Frey and their parents, an hour-long Criterion Channel Documentary about the Safdies, from 2017, discussing their work and life with their father, and a 2011 BTS Documentary Short (13 minutes) about the making of the film. Additionally, you may find a two-minute Screen Test with the leads, 17 minutes of Deleted Scenes, a pair of short, amusing Promo Pieces, the Theatrical Trailer, an additional four-minute Safdie Short Film, and a 2010 Featurette finding the Safdies confronted by cast and crew. It's a good mix of non-standard extras faire.


Final Thoughts:
The Safdie Brothers joint directorial debut feature Daddy Longlegs, culled from semi-autobiographical stories, is a harrowing, humorous, rambling, and ultimately deeply affecting two-weeks in the life of a divorced dad and his visiting kids. Feeling pretty naturalistic, and like a grown-up continuation of 1980s New York underground film-making, the Safdie's movie, with convincing and committed performances, presents an uncomfortable, unforgettable window into a broken world. Highly Recommended.

www.kurtdahlke.com

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C O N T E N T

V I D E O

A U D I O

E X T R A S

R E P L A Y

A D V I C E
Highly Recommended

E - M A I L
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